Innovations in Peacebuilding Working toward 25% representation for women in South Sudan political life Promoting female representation In July 2011, the people of southern Sudan officially gained independence from the north and formed the nation of South Sudan. With decades of violence behind it, the new government is making progress toward building a safe and egalitarian society. In a radical shift away from many other African countries, the nationâ€™s peace agreement and interim constitution both require 25% female participation in all spheres of public life.
The CRS approach Reinforcing leadership skills CRS is building on this impressive start by empowering women and working to ensure that nascent institutions integrate gender equality as a guiding principle, as called for by the Millennium Developments Goals set by the United Nations. The flagship activity supported by CRS this past year focused on engaging women around the national elections and referendum processes. In Eastern Equatoria, female parliamentarians participated in a workshop supported by CRS and Pax Christi that provided a safe space for legislators to share experiences, network with other
Group of students in a swimming class. Photo: CRS staff
Female parliamentarians during team building exercise. Photo: CRS staff
legislators and reinforce their leadership skills as female elected officials. Other trainings increased female politiciansâ€™ knowledge of the rules and regulations governing the electoral and referendum process, and encouraged them to reach out to their communities and bring women to the polls. Educating about human rights and conflict resolution In Lakes State, CRS supported a course run by the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek that trained women in peacebuilding and trauma healing. Participants recognized how few opportunities exist for women to access education and how their low level of familiarity with the human rights enshrined by Sudanese law increased their vulnerability to exploitative cultural practices such as being sold into early marriage or being exchanged for cattle. During the training, women from different areas acquired knowledge and skills in conflict mediation, conflict and gender analysis, and basic human rights. As a result, participants left with a stronger awareness of how gender roles affect their communitiesâ€™ capability to manage, mitigate and prevent conflicts. As follow up to the training, several participants visited other women within the diocese and organized sessions on peace education.
A woman is one of the last people to cast her ballot on January 15, 2011, at the Hai Jalaba polling station in Juba. Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Boosting girls’ self-esteem through sports and culture
Building peace by healing trauma
CRS also supported a course at the Loreto Girls’ School that focused on peacebuilding through sports and culture. The course strengthened adolescent female students’ self-esteem so that they would feel empowered to act as peacebuilders in their community. Sessions were held on the topics of mediation and communication, using drama and cultural activities to promote alternatives to violence as a means of conflict resolution. Sporting activities transferred new skills to students from different ethnic groups and enabled them to spend time together outside the school in a non-threatening setting. These people-to-people gatherings helped deepen their sense of compassion and acceptance of each other.
Going forward, CRS will support a workshop for women from each of the Catholic dioceses of South Sudan. Organized by CRS partner Solidarity with Southern Sudan, the training will focus on trauma healing using the Capacitar methodology. Following the workshop, women will continue their individual skills development locally while creating a network of peacebuilders among women from different faith traditions, geographies and ethnic groups. These subsequent activities will enable the participants to improve their techniques in peacebuilding, create a safe space for sharing stories, and firmly establish a network of Sudanese female peacebuilders throughout the Catholic dioceses in the region.
Looking Ahead The referendum of January 2011 kindled signs of hope for many in South Sudan. CRS will nurture this seed of hope by contributing to the creation of a cohort of empowered female peacebuilders, politicians and public opinion leaders.